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New STEM initiative launches in the Midlands…

Submitted by on March 21, 2016 – 7:10 am |

Tiny TechsA US initiative to encourage more young people to take up a career in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) launches in the Midlands this month, with a local twist.

Leamington-based The Emerald Group has teamed up with former US university professor Felix Hovsepian to launch ‘Tiny Techs’ in the Midlands. The initiative will see the business invite young children between the age of four and seven years old, together with their parents to the Emerald boardroom where they will engage in STEM exercises designed to capture their attention and imagination.

The idea has been developed from a previous scheme in the US where a legal firm restructured its organisation to fit around working parents, especially women who had taken a break to have children and were struggling to find a way back to the careers they had left behind.

Tiny Techs is not another ‘code club’. The group aims to nurture problem solving skills from a young age and, equally importantly, inspire and encourage parents to consider a career in STEM themselves. A recent YouGov survey found that 61% of business leaders and 68% of academics believe the STEM skills gap in the UK will take over ten years to close. According to Sarah Windrum, CEO of The Emerald Group, the key to bridging this gap is by both inspiring young people and encouraging adults to identify transferable skills that can help them carve new careers in STEM.

She commented: “We want to inspire young people at the start of their educational journey, as well as their parents, to help them develop an interest in STEM subjects. Part of Tiny Techs will be teaching people how to problem solve. It’s easy for people to learn and regurgitate information but less easy to teach them how to understand why and how things happen. For example, they may know that the answer to a mathematical equation, but do they understand why and how they arrived at that answer? Part of the problem with the educational system is that young people aren’t being taught the why and the how, we’re not encouraging them to think for themselves.”

Tiny Techs will give young children and their parents the opportunity to experiment with the popular Raspberry Pi computer, robotics, and other interactive learning devices. It is a real example of the power of collaboration with Stacey Calder, a group leader with Usborne Books, providing problem solving resources and books for the initiative. Stacey was keen to be involved because she is passionate about inspiring the next generation and building confidence in both parents and children. By welcoming participants to The Emerald Group offices in Leamington, it will also give young people and their parents an insight into how a modern technology business currently works and the kind of varied tasks involved in a technology career.

Felix Hovsepian, who has helped to bring the initiative to the Midlands, said that inspiring parents is the first step on the road to inspiring young people. He commented: “It’s a fact that young people spend a lot of time with mom and dad and are heavily influenced by them. Our aim is to engage the parents and support the appropriate use of technology in solving everyday problems as we believe parents will instinctively pass this enthusiasm and knowledge onto their children. It’s not just young people who can bridge the STEM skills gap in the UK, but people of all ages and backgrounds who are likely to have attributes they can bring to these sectors.”

The Emerald Group is a strong advocate for developing skills from other industries in order to bridge the technology skills gap in the UK. June Briscoe-Reynolds, the company’s Mobile Support Engineer, joined the business after having time out of her career to have a baby. Prior to that, she had only ever worked in the retail sector, working her way up to a management role. She recently became only the third female in the West Midlands to receive Apple Accredited Engineer status.

The first Tiny Techs meeting will see Felix and The Emerald Group partner with Networking Mummies in the Midlands to attract the first delegation of young people and parents. As the scheme grows, there are plans to develop it further into a social enterprise initiative.

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